Late last night, the Trump administration made a troubling announcement regarding military strategy in Syria.
The statement was short but to the point, declaring what amounts to a unilateral pull out from Northern Syria.
In order to understand the implications of this move, one must understand the delicate situation in Syria.
The Syrian Civil War started in 2011, but its origins go back decades. One party involved is the Ba’ath Party a far-left Arabist movement, headed by the infamous Bashar al-Assad. Assad is mostly known for being a genocidal maniac who, in 2014, started using chemical weapons against his own people. The Ba’ath party came to power in 1971, banking on a nationalist response to Syria’s thrashing by Israel in 1967, along with a coalition of Arab states seeking what amounted to a second holocaust in the Middle East (the destruction of the Jewish state).
Religiously, Ba’ath is comprised of mostly Shia Muslims, and are backed to the tune of $6 billion per year by Iran. Iranian international terrorist group Hezbollah also entered the fray in 2013, backing the Syrian government.
The second party at the table are the Shi’ite rebels, seeking to unseat the Ba’ath Party. Religiously, they represent the Sunni majority of Syrian civilians, and are backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Their explicit goal is simple— to unseat Assad. Beyond that, their plan for governance is a mystery and as such the United States have been measured in our support for them. They are backed by Turkey’s Erdogan, and stand to gain the most by this move.
The third party to the Syrian Civil in the North are the Kurds, a small but scrappy army of fighters who have had to fight off incursions by both the Turkish forces from their North and the Islamic State (ISIS). Representing the people of Kurdistan, a region deemed autonomous and deserving of a state since 1920 by Western allies after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1920, in the Treaty of Sevres.
The Kurds are the people who stand to lose the most by this move by the Trump administration. The declaration all but gives Turkey the green light to slaughter Kurds as they move south into the Northeastern region of Syria. Turkish dictator Recep Erdogan has made his distaste of the Kurdish people clear, having outlawed Kurdish identity in Turkey, despite Kurds making up 15-25% of Turkey’s population.
Israel, another stalwart American ally, stands to lose, as an emboldening of Iran and potential resurgence of ISIS would be catastrophic for their hopes of survival.
The implications of this move by Trump are clear: America’s enemies in the region (Assad, Iran et. al) will win by expanding their influence. Turkey, whose membership in NATO should be on the line, will also win by finally seeing the region they desire ridden of any American defense of the people there.
One spot of silver lining from this situation that may emerge is that the vastly bipartisan level of support that the Kurds enjoy in Washington may lead to backlash from Congress, via legislation brought their opposition to this move. Senator Lindsey Graham, took to Twitter to promise as much, saying “We will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the U.S. in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.
This move represents much more than just a foreign policy blunder– it is a sign of a failed philosophy coming to fruition. It is clear at this point that Congressional isolationists like Rand Paul has been whispering sweet nothings in Trump’s ear regarding foreign policy for a while now, and it’s showing.
Stunts like these undermine the trust our allies worldwide have in us, and the message in this instance to the Kurds is clear: thanks, but no thanks for fight ISIS and Turkey. Now you’re on your own in the most dangerous part of the world.